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Young children using mobile media more, but other types of screens less (+video)

A new report from the advocacy group Common Sense Media comes amid growing debate over young children’s use of touch-screen technology and reveals a dramatic shift in family life.

Correspondent Stephanie Hanes talks with the Monitor's Pat Murphy about parents allowing young children to use tablets and smartphones.
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Mobile media use has skyrocketed among young children over the past two years, according to a new report from the advocacy group Common Sense Media, while “screen time” overall – the use of televisions, computers, smart phones, and so on – has dropped. 

The survey results, released earlier Monday and coming amid growing debate over young children’s use of touch-screen technology, reveals a dramatic shift in family life, says Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media.

“This is big news,” he says. “This is pretty amazing in terms of what it shows about the digitization of young childhood. It’s a transformational shift in childhood, in media, and in technology use now.”

Forty percent of all families with children age 8 and under now own a tablet device, such as an iPad – up from 8 percent in 2011. Three-quarters of all young children have access to some sort of “smart” device at home, compared with 52 percent two years ago, and 38 percent of children under the age of 2 have used a mobile device for media.

Overall, the amount of time young children use these devices has tripled since 2011, to an average of 15 minutes a day. (That number is far larger among children who use a mobile device daily. They play for an hour and seven minutes.) And as many young children have their own tablets today – 7 percent – as did parents two years ago.  

“These kids are the true ‘digital natives,’ ” Mr. Steyer says, referring to a term coined in 2001 to describe people growing up in the age of digital technology.  

At the same time, children are spending less time with other types of screens, such as televisions, DVDs, and video games. Television “still reigns supreme in children’s medial lives,” according to the report, with nearly 6 in 10 young children watching it every day, but the amount of time children spend in front of it has, for the first time, dropped.

Overall, the average total screen time among 0-to-8-year-olds is just under two hours a day (one hour and 55 minutes), compared with two hours and 16 minutes in 2011. 

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